This article was first published in Local Government Chronicle.
The New Year is awash with predictions, so we’ll kick off with a simple but critical one: 2018 will be the year we see the second wave of digital for local government roll in, bringing benefits for residents, businesses and councils.
If the first wave of digital for local government was the shift from paper forms, manual processes and offline communications, then the second wave will be characterised by delivering services in radically different ways.
Green shoots of this second wave are already evident. Amazon Echos are being deployed by Hampshire CC to help those with eligible social care needs control lights, TVs and more, and give them easy access to bus timetables and other things crucial to independent living. And a Facebook chatbot was used by the Greater London Authority to answer citizens’ questions on the New Year’s Eve fireworks event on the Thames.
Such bold applications of new platforms like artificial intelligence, automation and the Internet of Things herald the start of the second wave of digital for local government.
Using the second wave will be important for delivering statutory responsibilities and services in an era of ever-increasing funding cuts and growing demand for services. Of course, technology innovation is key here, but without the associated organisational and cultural changes, and an increasingly digital workforce, the benefits will be impossible to achieve.
We’ve started to collect further evidence of this second wave through our Public Sector Digital Barometer. This simple-to-complete online tool explores digital transformation through the lenses of customer, culture, process, technology, skills and ambition. It’ll help show where you are on your transformation journey and where you’re planning to go – all in about ten minutes. And you can even complete it anonymously.
We’ll use the Digital Barometer to share our findings on where local government currently stands on the digital agenda, identify if we‘re in the throes of the second wave of digital or still standing on the edge, and share our advice on what it takes to deliver better, cost effective services in these tough times.
Rob Mettler is a digital business expert at PA Consulting Group